Monday, September 23, 2019

#GuestPost - "Michaelmas and Fall Harvest Celebrations" by Barbara Bettis

Michaelmas and Fall Harvest Celebrations

It’s late September, and we’re all still warm from our scorching summer—and still feeling some of it! So we may not be ready to admit that—it’s autumn now. With the end of summer, we’ll be seeing those wonderful Fall Festivals, Harvest Days, and other great traditions we’ve grown up with.

Similar tradition flourished in earlier periods as well. The Middle Ages, for instance.

The end of the growing season and harvest was celebrated around the autumnal equinox. It was celebrated in a Christian tradition, Michaelmas, one of four ‘quarter days’ in Medieval England. At that time, debts were due, land purchased, servants hired—a settling up day.

It also marked the beginning of Michaelmas Term at Oxford and Cambridge. The Courts had a Michaelmas term, as well.

The medieval autumn celebrations combined many pre-Christian traditions marking the end of growing season and the preparation for the lean and often treacherous days of winter. It was a long time before the next crops would be mature enough to eat, and people didn’t have the luxury of canning their surplus. So whatever could not be cured or dried or kept deep in the cool ground couldn’t be retained for use over the next five months.

Even many domesticated animals would be headed for slaughter later in the season for the simple fact that there would be nothing for them to eat. Only a handful of necessary animals were kept as a beginning herd for next year.

This seasonal celebrations of plenty saw community gatherings with food, drink, bonfires, and other various interesting activities of the season. (Scotland saw horseraces.)

With the coming of Christianity, this autumnal equinox observation was tied to a Christian Feast Day—that of St. Michael. Thus Michaelmas (the Mass of St. Michael), celebrated on Sept. 29.

St. Michael, of course, is the primary warrior angel who is said to have driven Satan from heaven. He protects against the dark. And since autumn ushers in the season of shorter, colder days and longer, darker nights leading to winter, such an association is understandable. Bad things are more likely to happen in the dark, so people needed a strong defender against that darkness and evil.

Unfortunately, myths say, when Satan fell from heaven, he landed in a bramble or blackberry bush. He cursed it, spit on it, stomped on it, and…um…did something else to it that would make the berries inedible. So blackberries are not to be picked after Michaelmas Day.

In some traditions, a goose was eaten on that feast day (if one were wealthy enough to have geese—otherwise, chicken would serve.) In places, the day is known as Goose Day. Nottingham, England, celebrated a goose fair early October. It still does.

In fact, the Nottingham Goose Fair is going on right now. It’s set for Oct. 5 this year. According to the Visit Nottinghamshire website, the “Goose Fair is one of Europe's largest travelling fairs with a history that dates back more than 700 years.”

These days, Michaelmas is celebrated on Sept. 29. But before the change in calendars from Julian to Gregorian in the late 1500s, it was held around Oct. 10 or 11.

So even if you can’t make it to Nottingham, perhaps you can grab some fried chicken in celebration of Michaelmas and the fall Harvest Festivals.

Just make sure you get those blackberries early!

Barbara Bettis’s latest medieval is set near Nottingham the year King Richard the Lionheart was released from captivity following the Third Crusade. Here’s a little about it.

Blurb - For This Knight Only

He’ll do anything for land, even marry her; she’ll do anything for her people, except marry him. If only either had a choice. It’s a marriage only love can save.

Sir Roark will do anything to gain land, even beguile an unwilling lady into marriage. He knows she’s much better off with a man to take control of her besieged castle, to say nothing of her desirable person. But it isn’t long before he discovers that, although her eyes sparkle like sunlight on sea waves, her stubbornness alone could have defeated Saladin. 

Lady Alyss is determined to hold her family’s castle, protect her people, and preserve her freedom— until her brother’s dying wish binds her to a stranger. Still, she’ll allow no rugged, over-confident, appealing knight to usurp her authority, even if she must wed him. Especially since he thinks a lady’s duties begin and end with directing servants. Alyss has a few surprises for her new all-too-tempting lord.

But when a common enemy threatens everything, Roark and Alyss face a startling revelation. Without love, neither land nor freedom matters.

Buy Links 


The kiss had been a damned mistake. Roark had meant it as a statement of possession. But her softness hit him like a mace. When he inhaled the rich fragrance of spice and roses and woman, his intent changed. He hauled her closer, slanted his mouth, stroked his tongue along the seam of her lips. At her whimper, a flicker of guilt undercut Roark’s stirring of desire. He ought not do this to the lady. He ought to gather his belongings and be on his way.

But the memory of the recent messenger lingered. That one portended nothing good. If Roark gave in to his inconveniently awakening conscience, by tomorrow night Chauvere, its people, and its lady would be the property of the neighboring lord. Of that, Roark was certain.

So the way he saw it, either Lady Alyss married him or she’d be forced to accept someone else.

And if Windom’s representative was any indication of his master, she’d not like that alternative.

What would it take to persuade her? A sudden pain burst between his legs, and he gasped, eyes blurry. The little hell-cat kneed him. Even though chain mail deflected some of the impact, he used every bit of his willpower to remain standing.

Apparently persuasion took more than a kiss. 


Award-winning author Barbara Bettis has always loved history and English. As a college freshman, she considered becoming an archeologist until she realized there likely would be bugs and snakes involved. And math. Through careers as a newspaper reporter and editor, then a college journalism and English professor, she’s retained her fascination with history. Give her a research book and a pot of tea, and she’s happy for hours. But what really makes her smile is working on a new story. Now retired, she lives in Missouri where she spins tales of heroines to die for—and heroes to live for.

Find Barb Here


  1. Thanks so much for hosting me today, Amber. I love talking about medieval traditions. Always interesting to see if any of our own trace back that far.

  2. Fascinating post about the medieval autumn celebrations. Best of luck with For This Knight Only!

    1. Thanks so much, Karen :) I appreciate the good thoughts.

  3. Replies
    1. Aren't they fascinating? sometimes I wonder how folks could actually believe those things, but... I guess to them it made sense :)

  4. Such an interesting post! Makes me wish I could travel back in time for a fortnight or so. But no..don't eat those blackberries!

    1. LOL. Just for a couple of weeks. I remember that one story thread in Outlander, when the other woman from the 1970s was burned at the stake for being a witch? Eek!!!

  5. Very interesting post! Thanks for sharing. I had no idea there were so many traditions around Fall.

    1. I know! And so many revolve around Church holidays, that there's always something going on :)

  6. Love English traditions! But I couldn't help but wonder--if Satan did a number on the blackberries, would they ever be safe to eat? :)

    1. LOL. Good point! I guess they are detritus-free every spring! ;)

  7. There are blackberries in my fridge, so I'll run over and eat them right now. They're probably safe, since they were picked before Sept 29, but why take an unnecessary risk?

    1. Smart lady!! :) Be sure to wash them good, though!!

  8. Always enjoy your medieval articles, Barbara! How fun it would be to visit Nottingham Goose Fair! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Such an interesting post! Many things I did not know. Started reading your book, and it's great so far!


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